A nobleman of the ninth century, Saint Julian is shown holding his attribute, the sword with which he accidentally slew his parents. This cut-down but otherwise well-preserved picture dates from about 1340 and belonged to a triptych for a church in Florence (Santa Maria della Croce al Tempio). Taddeo was among Giotto's most prolific and inventive pupils. The Metropolitan also owns a large altarpiece by him that is approximately contemporary with the Saint Julian (Gallery 625). Taddeo’s son Agnolo is the author of the Trinity, also shown in this gallery. See metmuseum.org/collections for a reconstruction of the altarpiece.
This well preserved picture is by Giotto’s most faithful pupil, Taddeo Gaddi (see 10.97). It was first published by Longhi in 1959; there is no certain earlier notice, and the suggestion that it formed part of an altarpiece seen by Ghiberti in the Florentine church of Santa Maria dei Servi seems unlikely, since Ghiberti describes that altarpiece as "grandissima." This panel could only have been a pinnacle from such a work. A panel from the same altarpiece, showing Saint Anthony Abbot (private collection), has been identified (Skaug 1994 and Boskovits 2001). As with the Saint Julian, the arched top has been cropped (the upper portion of the Saint Anthony is a modern reconstruction) and so, too, has the bottom edge, raising the possibility that originally the saints were depicted full-length. If this is admitted as a possibility, then the idea that the two saints formed part of an ensemble together with an Annunciation in the Museo Bandini, Fiesole, seems extremely likely (Tartuferi 2007, 2008; see Additional Images, fig. 1). Not only is the Annunciation close in style to the two panels, it has a virtually identically tooled border, with a vine motif (first remarked upon by Longhi in 1959). As Ladis (1982) has noted, a trefoliated shaped punched decoration in the halo of the Saints Julian and Anthony is also found, uniquely, in the halo of the Virgin of the Fiesole panel. Skaug (2008) wondered whether the three panels—the two saints and the Annunciation—might have belonged together, and Tartuferi (2007, 2008) has made a strong case for them forming an altarpiece for the church of the Compagnia di Santa Maria della Croce al Tempio in Florence (the foundation was located on the via San Giuseppe—then known as the via del Crocifisso—near the church of Santa Croce). It has now been firmly established that the Fiesole Annunciation originated from that church (Scudieri 1993), the home one of the most ancient confraternities of justice, the members of which were charged with the task of assisting those condemned to death. The confraternity seems to have been founded in 1343, which, as Tartuferi has noted, is remarkably close to the date most scholars have assigned to the Annunciation (mid- to late 1340s). Richa, in fact, mentions an Annunciation on the high altar in his Notizie istoriche delle chiese Fiorentine of 1755 (vol. 2, p. 132: "una Nunziata assai antica"). If Tartuferi is correct, we might imagine a triptych with each panel surmounted by a pinnacle. In what now seems an overzealous attempt to draw clear distinctions between Taddeo’s autograph work and the products of his workshop, Ladis initially found weaknesses in both the Annunciation and the Saint Julian that he ascribed to an assistant, but he later agreed that the latter was by Taddeo himself (correspondence in departmental files) and, indeed, like the Annunciation, it is a work of very fine quality. The way the saint turns his head, with his left arm acutely foreshortened and the sword establishing a decisive diagonal across the body, suggests an awareness of the work of Maso di Banco, whose figures can have an almost architectural quality to their construction and show a command of spatial composition. Maso is generally conceded to have exerted a strong influence on Taddeo, who in the late 1330s worked in the Bardi di Mangona chapel in Santa Croce on a project begun by Maso (Ladis 1982, pp. 136–38). According to the Golden Legend, Julian was of noble birth. Fearing a prediction that he would kill his father and mother, he left home, was knighted, married, and in the end killed his sleeping parents, whom he mistook in the dark for his wife and a secret lover. He then performed good deeds as penance. In the picture he is dressed as a knight and holds a sword as his identifying attribute. [Keith Christiansen 2012]
The arched top of the panel has been cut and the gold background extended at the upper sides, beyond the tooled foliate border, so as to create a rectangular gold field. To do this, remnants were salvaged from the upper parts of the cropped panels of the altarpiece and these were then arbitrarily pieced together—mosaic-like—to obtain the desired rectangular gold field (see Additional Images, fig. 2). The pieces used to transform the shape of the MMA panel can be shown to have come from the cut-off portion of another panel from the same altarpiece: the foliate pattern was made by a different hand, with the principal leaf pattern drawn differently, without the elegant concave sweep of the leaf at its tip that is seen in the proper border.
[George Bisacca 2012]
?Mrs. Werner Abegg, Turin (in 1949); [Rudolf J. Heinemann, New York, by 1959–d. 1975]; Mrs. Rudolf J. Heinemann, New York (1975–d. 1996)
Roberto Longhi. "Qualità e industria in Taddeo Gaddi, I." Paragone 9 (January 1959), pp. 37–40, pl. 15, as in a private collection; attributes it to Taddeo Gaddi and dates it 1334–40 based on stylistic similarities with the work of Maso di Banco; calls it part of an altarpiece, tentatively suggesting a connection to a lost work by Taddeo recorded by Ghiberti and Vasari in the church of Santissima Annunziata, Florence (formerly Santa Maria dei Servi).
Alessandro Parronchi. Studi su la dolce prospettiva. Milan, 1964, pp. 137–38, suggests that it formed a pinnacle of Taddeo's lost altarpiece from the church of Santissima Annunziata (formerly Santa Maria dei Servi), dating this work about 1332.
Pier Paolo Donati. Taddeo Gaddi. Florence, 1966, p. 31.
Alessandro Conti. "Pittori in Santa Croce: 1295–1341." Annali della Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa, 3rd ser., 2, no.1 (1972), p. 260.
Massimo Ferretti. "Una croce a Lucca, Taddeo Gaddi, un nodo di tradizione giottesca." Paragone 27 (July–September 1976), p. 26, dates it 1340s.
Antonella Nesi. "San Lorenzo a Montegufoni, San Domenico a Prato e un'asta londinese: proposte e novità per Taddeo Gaddi." Paragone 32, no. 373 (March 1981), p. 52.
Andrew Ladis. Taddeo Gaddi: Critical Reappraisal and Catalogue Raisonné. Columbia, Mo., 1982, pp. 220, no. 49, fig. 49–1, dates it about 1345; lists it with works largely by the shop of Taddeo Gaddi, but attributes the design and some of the painting to Taddeo himself.
Magnolia Scudieri inIl Museo Bandini a Fiesole. Ed. Magnolia Scudieri. Florence, 1993, p. 82, identifies the Annunciation in Fiesole as coming from the church of the Compagnia di Santa Maria della Croce al Tempio in Florence based on the medallions in the upper left and right corners and on Richa's mention of "una Nunziata assai antica" on the high altar of that church ("Notizie istoriche delle chiese fiorentine divise ne' suoi quartieri," Florence, vol. 2, 1755, p. 132).
Erling S. Skaug. Punch Marks from Giotto to Fra Angelico: Attribution, Chronology, and Workshop Relationships in Tuscan Panel Painting. Oslo, 1994, vol. 1, p. 93; vol. 2, punch chart 5.2, as location unknown; relates it to the Saint Anthony Abbot in the collection of Alexander Rudigier, Munich; lists it with works by Taddeo and identifies punch marks that it possibly shares with works by the Master of the Dominican Effigies, the Master of San Lucchese, and Agnolo Gaddi.
Keith Christiansen in "Recent Acquisitions, A Selection: 1996–1997." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 55 (Fall 1997), p. 24, ill. (color), calls it the cut-down lateral panel of an altarpiece from which no other fragments are known; dates it early 1340s and considers it contemporary with the altarpiece by Taddeo also in the MMA (10.97).
Miklós Boskovits. Letter to Everett Fahy. March 5, 2001, identifies its "companion piece" as a Saint Anthony Abbot (Rudigier collection, Munich); notes that this relationship was known to Offner.
Angelo Tartuferi inDagli eredi di Giotto al primo Cinquecento. Ed. Gabriele Caioni and Flavio Gianassi. Florence, 2007, pp. 18, 20, 23 n. 2, pp. 24, 26–27 n. 2, figs. 1, 3 (reconstruction), publishes a reconstruction of the altarpiece, with the Annunciation in the Museo Bandini, Fiesole, flanked by Saints Julian and Anthony Abbot, noting that Scudieri [see Ref. 1993] has shown that the Annunciation comes from the church of the Compagnia di Santa Maria della Croce al Tempio, founded in 1343.
Erling Skaug. "The Santa Felicita Altarpiece and Some Observations on Taddeo Gaddi's Punchwork and Halo Style c. 1345–1355." Il polittico di Taddeo Gaddi in Santa Felicita a Firenze: restauro, studi e ricerche. Ed. Mirella Branca. Florence, 2008, pp. 53–54, dates it 1345–50, noting the undulating vine motif of the border, and wonders whether it, the Saint Anthony Abbot, and the Annunciation in Fiesole might have belonged together.
Angelo Tartuferi inL'eredità di Giotto: arte a Firenze 1340–1375. Ed. Angelo Tartuferi. Exh. cat., Galleria degli Uffizi. Florence, 2008, pp. 120, 122, no. 14c, fig. 1 (color, reconstruction).
Norman E. Land. "Artistic Errors in a Tale about the 'Piovano' Arlotto." Source: Notes in the History of Art 29 (Winter 2010), p. 3, fig. 1.